Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers – WIF Bad Things Go Happen

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Epic Natural Disasters

Throughout History

Natural disasters have existed as long as humanity, and in fact a lot longer. This means that pretty much every century in recorded history has been forced to endure one or more incredibly destructive attacks of nature’s strongest powers. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest natural disasters in history, and how they affected the people of that era.

10. Peshtigo Fire

Most people are familiar with the Great Chicago Fire, with its “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern” backstory and hundreds of dead. However, it’s far from the most destructive fire in American history. It’s not even the most destructive one that started on October 8, 1871. That dubious honor goes to the Peshtigo Fire of Wisconsin — the most destructive forest fire in America’s history, which caused around 1,200 deaths, burned an incredible 1.2 million acres and burned through 16 different towns, in 11 counties. At one point, it even “skipped over” Green Bay to burn sections of two counties on the other side. It even made the same amount of damage as the much more urban Chicago fire — roughly $169 million.

Where the Great Chicago Fire was a disaster, the Peshtigo fire was hell, plain and simple. The fire was likely started by careless railroad workers who caused a brush fire which the dry summer and unfortunate winds soon whipped up into a superfast wall of flame that some say moved almost like a tornado. The flames “convulsed” and moved in strange ways, eating up all the oxygen and bursting fleeing people ablaze. It looked like the end of the world, and for many, it was. There were heroics, and tragic losses, and desperate survival stories. One heroic man reportedly carried a woman all the way to safety, thinking it was his wife, and when he found it was a stranger he immediately went insane. A young girl spent all night in the river to escape the inferno, holding on to a cow’s horn to stay moored.

The worst damage was done to the fire’s namesake, the town of Peshtigo. 800 of the fire’s 1,200 victims were from there, and the entire place was “gone in an hour.”

9. Ch’ing-yang event

There have been many times when meteors and meteorites have graced our planet with their presence, but arguably the one with the biggest death toll is the Ch’ing-yang event in 1490. Seeing as this meteor shower event in China happened well over five centuries ago, actual details about the event are unfortunately somewhat fuzzy. Accounts of the era report that “stones falling like rain” killed up to 10,000 people on the Ch’ing-Yang area of the Shaanxi Province.

Modern experts have expressed doubt over that exact figure — after all, it is the only meteor shower case with such a giant death toll. However, pretty much everyone agrees that a “dramatic event” happened at the reported time and place, and it’s speculated that a breakup of an asteroid may indeed have resulted in a deadly rain of celestial hail.

8. Calcutta cyclone

The Ganges River delta area is no stranger to tropical storms, but the Calcutta cyclone of 1737, also known as the Hoogly River cyclone, ranks among the absolute worst. It struck on an early autumn morning just south of the city of Calcutta, tearing 200 miles inlands before finally calling it a day. The cyclone brought with it a 30 to 40-foot storm surge (a sudden rise of water level in Ganges), along with 15 inches of rain over just six hours.

The combination of these elemental attacks was catastrophic. Most of the city of Calcutta, built largely of mud huts and brick buildings, was utterly demolished. The city suffered 3,000 casualties, but the cyclone’s overall damage was over a hundred times worse; The disaster is estimated to have killed up to 350,000 people and destroyed around 20,000 boats, ships and canoes of all shapes and sizes.

7. Dadu River dam landslide

On June 1, 1976, a huge earthquake shook the Kangding-Luding area of southwest China, causing all the problems that a major 7.75 magnitude quake can cause. What happened next was worse. A landslide dam (debris from the landslide blocking the water flow of the river), and as is so often the case in impromptu dams, it unfortunately wasn’t built to last.

After building a nice reservoir behind it for 10 days, the landslide dam eventually breached. The water cascaded downstream as a catastrophic wall of death, flooding the areas it encountered to the tune of 100,000 deaths. Experts think that this was likely the most destructive event of this particular nature in history.

6. Coringa cyclones

Coringa was a large and prosperous Indian port city at the mouth of river Godavari. These days, it’s still there, but only as a mere small village. This is because the former busy city went through some of the worst cyclones in history.

In 1789, Coringa received a massive blow when a nasty cyclone tore through the area, leaving around 20,000 people dead. The shaken city was nevertheless able to resume its functions, but unbeknownst to its residents, their terrors had only begun. On November 25, 1839, another, much worse cyclone came, bringing a 40-foot storm surge and punishing winds with it. Once the roar of the storm died down, Coringa’s entire port was destroyed. The death count of the cyclone was an estimated 300,000 people, which along with the 20,000 boats that were also destroyed by the storm marked the end of Coringa’s glory days.

5. Krakatoa volcanic eruption of 1883

What the Krakatoa volcano’s eruption in August 1883 lacked in death toll (it killed “only” 36,000 people), it delivered in pure, deadly spectacle. The volcano, which was on a 3-by-5.5 mile island between Sumatra and Java, started giving signs of upcoming trouble months before the incident, starting with massive ash clouds, “thundering” noises and strange “natural fireworks” that lit the sky. Unaware of the impeding doom, the people living on nearby islands took to celebrating the show — only to be rudely interrupted when Krakatoa started a very different, deadly party.

On August 26, the first blast threw debris and a gas cloud a good 15 miles in the air. The next morning, the area was shaken by four explosions that equaled the strength of 200 megatons of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was around 0,01% of that) and could be heard from 2,800 miles away. Super-heated steam, hot gases and volcanic matter scorched the surrounding 25 miles at speeds over 62 miles-per-hour.

The eruption claimed its first victims via thermal injuries from its mighty blasts, and the rest fell victim to the 120-foot tsunami that came when the volcano collapsed into an undersea caldera. Even after its initial terrors were over, Krakatoa wouldn’t stop wrecking humanity’s day. The eruption was so strong that it actually changed the climate and dropped temperatures all over the world.

4. Shaanxi earthquake

In 1556, the Shaanxi province of China had the extreme misfortune of hosting what is thought to be the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. The quake was around 8 on the Richter scale, meaning it was a “great” earthquake that is totally capable of leveling communities near the epicenter. The Shaanxi quake wasn’t content with just communities, either; Chinese annals report that it lasted mere seconds, but was so incredibly strong that it destroyed buildings, remodeled rivers, caused floods, ignited massive fires and even “leveled mountains.”

As you can probably expect, such a massive disaster was bad news for any and all humans who happened on its way. The Shaanxi earthquake had an estimated 830,000 casualties, and it actually cut the population of the area by a ridiculous 60 percent. Oddly, it also managed to affect the architectural trends of the area: Because many people had been killed by falling stone buildings, the rebuilding process saw the adaptation of wood, bamboo and other more earthquake-resistant materials.

3. Yellow River floods of China

Between 1887 and 1938, China’s famed Huang He (Yellow River) went through the top three most destructive floods in recorded history. The 3,395-mile river is extremely silted, which makes especially the North China Plain’s flatlands to be in constant risk of flooding: Since the 2nd century BCE, it has flooded an estimated 1,500 times, and no one can even begin to calculate the death and destruction these floods have brought in total.

We do, however, know unpleasantly well the havoc these three ultra-destructive floods brought on the ill-prepared China. In the flood that happened over September and October of 1887 (and the famine and diseases it brought to the survivors) the death toll is estimated somewhere between 900,000 and two million people. An even more destructive one in August 1931 covered 34,000 square miles of land in water, and “partially” flooded a further 8,000. Up to 4 million people were killed by the flood and its aftermath, and a devastating 80 million people were left homeless. This particular flood is often considered the most deadly natural disaster in recorded history.

The last of the three mega-floods came in June 1938, and it was actually completely man-made. Thanks to the military’s destruction of dikes near Kaifeng in an effort to stop the approaching Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese war, up to 900,000 people died.

2. The great European famine

If even honest men can do terrible things when they’re desperate, and the best way to make a person desperate is to make them terribly hungry, imagine what would happen if you’d make a whole continent starve. Actually, you don’t need to, because that exact thing happened in 14th century Europe.

The Great European Famine happened when bad weather conditions caused crops to fail all over Europe from 1315 to the summer harvest of 1317. The results were nothing short of cataclysmic. The few years of hunger single-handedly stopped a centuries-long time of wealth and growth, and plunged the continent into a pandemonium of disease, death, crime, and even the indescribable horrors of infanticide and cannibalism. Millions of people died, and it took until 1922 for Europe to recover from the terror. In fact, the effects of the disaster can still be felt today: Reportedly, certain parts of France are still more sparsely populated than they were just before the Great Famine hit.

1. Plague of Justitian

Disclaimer: this one has a death toll that goes right through the roof, though technically it’s not a natural disaster in the “earth rises to devour us all” sense, but rather an outbreak of disease. A massive, massive outbreak of disease.

Imagine being an all-powerful emperor trying to cement your legacy, only to find that the main thing history books remember about you is that a bunch of rodents managed to kill countless thousands of people during your reign … and then giving the ensuing epidemic. Such was the fate of Byzantine’s emperor Justitian I, who became the namesake of the Plague of Justitian (or Justitian’s plague, because why bother giving it just one version of the guy’s name?) just because he happened to be in charge when it struck.

Justitian’s plague, which was basically a nasty cellar band version of the Black Plague before it went mainstream, had formed in China and/or India, and its tours eventually took it to Egypt and assorted trade routes. it got its big break in the year 542, when the rodents bearing the disease finally reached the mighty city of Constantinople. Reports indicate that the city was struck with pretty much all forms of plague at once: Apart from the Black Death classic bubonic plague, pneumonic and septicemic types were also present. As such, citizens started keeling over by the thousand. Tens of thousands of people died in an extremely short span of time, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that authorities were unable to dispose of the masses of dead, diseased bodies in a timely manner.

After the plague was done with Justitian’s Constantinople, it turned its attention to the Mediterranian and later Persia. Its active career lasted for an estimated half a century, though some indicate that the plague continued its Mediterranean tour for a good 225 years. Ultimately, it’s estimated that the Plague of Justitian killed up to 40% of Constantinople’s residents, and the entire Byzantine empire lost somewhere between 25 and 50 million people. Nice legacy, Justitian.


Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers

WIF Bad Things Go Happen

Alpha Omega M. D. – Episode #200

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #200

… I think the captain of the U-boat has had attack of conscience,” counters a repulsed Judith. She does not understand war, not even after a nine month dose…

U-Boat by fluidgeometry – Deviant Art

As the Pearson-Eastman Journal launch rounds peninsula Fife, passing the mouth of the Firth of Forth, they spot a terrifying sight, a crippled ship listing heavily to the starboard, with few prospects of staying afloat. Being faster than Ferrell’s ship, they double back to warn them. No more than a minute passes before they can blow a horn of warning, to cause the large boat to turn for the safety of the firth.

A pair of bubbling streaks follows them into the outlet of the River Tay, one striking the stern, the other close behind, destroying the screws and igniting a fresh load of fuel. The resulting chain reaction explosion snaps the defenseless ship into two distinct sections, like a lengthwise banana. Each piece turns over, nosing under the surf in a blink of an eye.

Risking their own safety, the launch plows through a maze of bobbing crates and floatables, searching for survivors in the horrific chaos. But unlike the Titanic or Lusitania, this is a cargo vessel; humans are few, all except one, the crew. The way it goes down, swallowed nearly whole by a cold sea not 13 leagues from Dundee, does not bode well for the thirty, not having had a chance to don life jackets.

“Over there!” Judith points to a man clinging to a plank. They pray that it is John Ferrell, but as they slow to snatch him out of 40 degree chop, he turns out to be the first mate.

“Have you seen anyone else?” is the repeated question, each gaining a negative signal.

Fifty yards away, in the direction of the submerged missiles, huge air bubbles rise and the sea swells. The letters U-36 break the surface, followed by a 215 foot fuselage. The Pearson people freeze, not knowing what to expect. Of the five uniformed German sailors, none is manning the deck mounted machine gun and their hands are occupied by binoculars, not the issued Lugar side arms. One of them calls out in their language, guttural sympathy rather than confrontation.

The launch commander is skeptical. “They must be out of bullets.”

“No, I think the captain has had attack of conscience,” counters a repulsed Judith. She does not understand war, not even after a nine month dose.

“Let’s get out of here, before they change their mind,” urges the commander. “They won’t leave until they fish something of value out of the water.”war-001

“We’ve got to go back to Perth, Barrie shouldn’t find out by reading a newspaper.” Harv tries to do the right thing, contrary to self-preservation. He apologizes to his people, for having exposed them to the ugliest side of humanity. “Filthy goddamned war!”

He never takes God’s name in vain. Almost never.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Firth of Forth in Scotland by Jose Luis Cezon Garcia

Episode #200


page 187 (end ch. 10)

No Summer, No Vacation, No Fun, No Kidding – WIF Into History

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Global Impact

of the Year

Without a Summer

The year 1816 was the first since the onset of the French Revolutionary Wars in which the western world was at peace. In Europe, the nightmare of the Napoleonic Wars began to fade. In North America, Washington DC began the process of rebuilding after being burned by the British Army during the War of 1812. Global commerce was expected to thrive, unimpeded by the raiding ships of nations locked in a death grip with each other. Farmers expected strong markets for their crops, shippers looked forward to record profits, manufacturers hoped the return of peace would create demand for their products. But then a funny thing happened. There was no summer. As late as August of that year, hard freezes in the farmlands of upper New York and New England destroyed what little crops had been planted during a spring of continuous snow and freezing weather.

1816 was the year of no summer, not just in North America, but across the Northern Hemisphere. Record cold, freezing rains, floods, and frosts occurred throughout the months in which warmer weather could be reasonably expected, given centuries of its showing up more or less on schedule. It did not, and without global communication to understand why, the underpinnings of civilization – farming and trade – suffered across the globe. The year with no summer is now understood to have been the result of a series of geological events which masked the sun with volcanic dust, but to those who endured it, it was simply an inexplicable disaster. The commercial effects continued to be felt for years, as financial markets roiled from the unexpected disruption of trade and investment. For those unconcerned with climate change it remains a stark, though wholly ignored, warning of the power of nature. Here are just a few of its impacts.

10. Thomas Jefferson found his indebtedness increased by drastic crop failures

In 1815 former president Thomas Jefferson, living in retirement at his Monticello estate, offered his personal library as replacement for the losses suffered by the Library of Congress when the British burned the American capital. The sale was a gesture which gained Jefferson some temporary praise, but more importantly to him it provided an infusion of badly needed money. The former president was broke, and the $23,950 (almost $400,000 today) he received alleviated some, but by no means all, of his indebtedness. Jefferson was relying on a strong crop from his Virginia farms in 1816 to reduce his debts further. In his Farm Book for 1816 Jefferson noted the unusual cold as early as May; “repeated frosts have killed the early fruits and the crops of tobacco and wheat will be poor,” he wrote.

Jefferson struggled with the bizarre weather throughout the summer months, recording temperature and rainfall data still used by scientists studying the phenomenon, but he was unaware of its cause. He did lament its effect. Jefferson’s corn and wheat crops were reduced by two thirds, his tobacco even more so, and the former president slipped yet more deeply into debt, as did most of the farmers of the American states of Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and all of New York and New England. The failure of tobacco crops was particularly devastating, ships which normally would have carried the cured leaves to Europe lay idle, and British tobacconists shifted to plantations in Africa as the source of the weed, in high demand in Europe. During the summer, Jefferson reported frosts in every month of the year in the higher elevations of Virginia, and in every state north of his farms.

9. Prices of grains spiked as the summer went on, and remained high for nearly three years

In Virginia, oats were a crop which was considered essential to the survival of the economy. Oats were consumed by humans in the form of porridge, and in oat breads and cakes, but the grain was also an essential part of the diet of horses. Horses were of course critical in the early 19th century as motive power for plows and transportation. The shortage of oats caused the farmers who produced it to respond to the insatiable demand for the grain by raising their prices on the little they were able to harvest. According to Jefferson and other Virginia farmers, oats cost roughly 12 cents per bushel in 1815, a price already inflated by the demand placed on the crops by the recently ended War of 1812, when armies needed horses for cavalry and as draft animals.

By midsummer of 1816, oats had increased to nearly $1 per bushel, an increase which most were unable to pay. The shortage of grain, (as well as other fodder) meant what horses were available were often undernourished. European markets were unable to make up the shortage, as Europe too was locked in the grip of the low temperatures and excessive rains. In Europe the cost of maintaining horses increased dramatically, and the use of horseback for individual travel became the privilege of the wealthy few. A German tinkerer and inventor by the name of Karl Drais began experimenting with a device consisting of a piece of wood equipped with a seat upon which a person would perch while moving the legs in a manner similar to walking. Called variously the velocipede, the laufmaschine, and the draisine, it was the precursor for what is now known as the bicycle.

8. Temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere were abnormally cold, especially in New England

The New England states were particularly hard hit during the summer of 1816 by abnormally low temperatures. In the New England states, which were at the time still mostly agricultural, every month of the year suffered at least one hard frost, devastating crops in the fields and the fruit trees which had managed to blossom during the long and wet spring. On June 6, a Plymouth, Connecticut clockmaker noted in his diary that six inches of snow had fallen overnight, and he was forced to wear heavy mittens and his greatcoat during his customary walk to his shop. Sheep were a product of many New England farms, well adapted to grazing on the hillsides in pastures too small to accommodate cattle herds. Shorn in late winter, as was customary, many died in the unexpected cold, and the price of lamb and mutton reached record highs.

By the end of June, temperatures in New England had begun a rollercoaster ride which they would retain for the rest of the summer, further damaging crops and livestock. Late June in western Massachusetts saw temperatures reach 101 degrees only to plummet to the 30s over the Fourth of July. Men went about in their hayfields harvesting their sparse yields dressed in overcoats. Beans – long a staple crop of New England – froze in the fields. From Puritan pulpits across the region, the weather was attributed to a righteous judgment of God. In August there was measurable snowfall in Vermont, and though winter wheat crops yielded some harvests, the cost of moving the grain to market was often prohibitive. New Englanders, especially in the rural areas, began to forage off the land in the manner of their ancestors, surviving on what game and wild plants they could find in the woods.

7. The lack of summer provided one of literature’s most infamous characters

Most people had no idea what were the scientific reasons behind the bizarre weather in the summer months of 1816. Many of the wealthy, better able to weather the storm, so to speak, went about their business despite the adverse weather conditions. In Europe, a group of young English writers and their guests summered at Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The group included Lord Byron and an English poet named Percy Shelley, who brought with him his wife, the former Mary Wollstonecraft. Housebound by the continuing inclement weather (Mary later wrote that it was an ungenial summer), the group was forced to find ways to entertain themselves. Bored of playing parlor games one of the members, probably Lord Byron, suggested that each member of the group write a story, along the lines of a ghost story, for the entertainment of the rest.

Mrs. Shelley at first balked at the idea, unable to come up with a plot until mid-July, when she confided to her diary that at the group’s nightly discussions she arrived at the idea of “Perhaps a corpse could be reanimated.” She began writing a short story, which grew into a full length gothic novel which she entitled,  “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.” Her husband was later credited with assisting Mary with the work, though the extent of his contributions to the classic tale of horror remains disputed by scholars. Mary Shelley later credited her inspiration to a waking dream which came upon her during one of her long walks in the woods around Geneva, immersed in the gloom of the strange weather that summer. Shelley wrote that while her husband Percy – who committed suicide in 1822 – helped her with technical aspects of the writing, the tale wholly originated with her.

6. The year with no summer coincided with the end of the Little Ice Age

The year without summer is commonly ascribed to the summer months of 1816, though its effects were felt for three years, part of the final months of what is known as the Little Ice Age. Crop failures were acute in the first harvest season of the period, and such continued for at least another two years. Wet and cold weather impeded planting in the spring as well as harvests in the fall, and the size of the harvests from North America to China were insufficient to support the populations. Hunger became famine in many areas, including Europe and China, residents of rural communities migrated to urban areas in search of food through begging, and population density grew those diseases which strengthen among hungry populations, including cholera and typhus. Medicine of the time was inadequate to treat either.

The result was a globally felt – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – calamity, which encompassed starvation, diseases, and popular unrest for a period of three years. Hundreds of thousands of former soldiers, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, roamed Europe seeking the means to feed themselves and their families. In England sailors who had manned the ships of His Majesty’s Navy found themselves unemployed as warships were decommissioned, and the absence of crops reduced the amount of goods available for international trade. Ships rotted at their moorings. By the summer of 1817 organized groups of former soldiers across Europe were rioting in the belief that government warehouses held grain being kept from the starving people. In the United States, especially in still largely agricultural New England, failed crops caused farmers to pull up stakes and head for the promised lands west of the Ohio River.

5. The Swiss disaster of 1816-1817 was among the worst of the global catastrophe

Over a period of 153 days between April and September, 1816, Geneva, Switzerland recorded 130 days of rain. The temperature remained too cold for the snow in the Alps to melt, which prevented the disaster from being far worse. The streets, and more importantly the sewers and drains, of Geneva were flooded, and Lake Geneva was too swollen with rain to absorb the runoff. Meanwhile local crops were drowned by the incessant chill rains, and the harvest of 1816 was a complete failure, leading to the last recorded famine on the European continent. The lack of fodder led to the demise of hundreds of thousands of draft animals and cattle and oxen died in the waters in the fields and alongside the Swiss roads. Hundreds of thousands of Swiss were rendered homeless, living in the streets and fields unable to feed themselves, as the brutal cold of an Alpine winter settled upon them.

Beginning in early 1817 the death rate in Switzerland, already well above normal due to starvation and disease, increased by more than 50%. Oxen, horses, and cattle dead from starvation and rotting in the fields became sources of food for the desperate populace. Aid from European neighbors was nonexistent, as the harvests on the continent and in England were similarly sparse. France had but recently survived its revolution and the ravages of the Napoleonic Era, it was short of manpower, and its newly restored monarchy was inadequate to the challenges of the disaster which had befallen. As the seemingly unending winter lengthened it soon became obvious to the people of Europe that those of wealth and privilege were better able to cope, and that the burden of suffering was being borne by the urban and rural poor.

4. The Year with no summer was well documented by the educated and wealthy, including Thomas Jefferson

In the United States, former president Thomas Jefferson left behind a record of meteorological events which was so detailed it remains in use by scholars and scientists studying the global disaster two centuries later. In modern times it is compared to scientific data acquired through means not understood in Jefferson’s day. For example, the studies of tree rings cut from trees which were alive during the catastrophe in Vermont indicate that for the period including 1816 there was little or no growth, which corresponds to the notes left by Jefferson in his Farm Book and other diaries, recording observations he made hundreds of miles to the south. Among the observations left by Jefferson are records of rainfalls, which while devastatingly heavy in some areas were scant in others, including Jefferson’s Virginia.

Jefferson wrote to Albert Gallatin towards the end of the summer of 1816 describing the shortage of rainfall which had been prevalent during the ending growing season, as well as the unseasonably cold temperatures. Jefferson, who used the records he had prepared every year since occupying his “Little Mountain” as a basis, informed Gallatin that an average normal rainfall for the month of August was 9 and 1/6 of an inch. Rainfall for August 1816 had been less than one inch; “we had only 8/10 of an inch, and still it continues”. He also noted the continuing cold weather conditions, including the frosts well to the north of Virginia, of which he had learned through his voluminous correspondence. Yet not Jefferson, nor any other student of science or the weather of the time, was able to postulate the global disaster had been due to a natural event, occurring many thousands of miles away.

3. In England, the army was called out to crush urban uprisings of the starving

England, which had been instrumental in the formation of the coalitions which crushed Napoleon, was particularly hard hit by the lack of a growing season. Unable to feed itself with the best of harvests, England found its own crops devastated by the adverse weather and its trading partners unable to provide food in sufficient quantities to make them affordable for most of its population. England had already endured years of shortages as the nation threw its might behind the wars with Napoleon, and the people by 1816 had had enough. As early as in the spring of 1816 food and grain riots were experienced in the west counties. In the town of Ely armed mobs locked up the local magistrates and fought the militia which mustered to rescue them.

By the following spring mobs in the urban centers of the midlands were common. Ten thousand armed and angry people rioted in Manchester that March. The summer of 1817 saw the British Army called to quell riots and other uprisings in England, Scotland, and Wales, while the transports to the newly established penal colonies were increased. Local landlords and magistrates often ignored the pleas of the authorities in London, establishing their own mini-fiefdoms through the promises of bread and grain. In England, as well as on the European continent, demands from the wealthier classes led to an increase in more authoritarian governments and the subsequent loss of civil liberties – such as they were at the time – in response to the international demand for food. On the other side, the suspicion that governments were hoarding food and grain at the expense of the poor led to a rise in radical thought, especially in France and the German principalities.

2. The Great Migration from New England to the west began in 1816

 

Most history books attribute the movement of the American agricultural population to the west following the War of 1812 to the end of the threat from the Indian tribes formerly supported by their British allies. The end of British influence was no doubt part of the mass migration, but it takes more than just the potential of new lands to uproot families from farms held by their ancestors for generations. The catastrophic crop failures which began in 1816 were a large part of the motivation for the movement to the west, as indicated by the massive depopulation of the New England states which began during the Year with no Summer. Particularly hard hit were Vermont and New Hampshire, as residents packed up and left for the west. For many of them, it was a journey away from divine punishment, a new exodus to a promised land, a view encouraged from pulpits.

family from Vermont was one of them, which headed to the west into the lands which are now upstate New York, Indian Territory before the American victory during the War of 1812. The move coincided with a religious revival across America which became known as the Second Great Awakening, a return to the fundamentalism which had protected Americans from the ravages of an angry God, in the view of many. The family which settled for a time in New York were the Smiths, of Sharon, Vermont. While in their new home one of them, a son named Joseph, experienced the visions which eventually led to his discovery of the Book of Mormon. Without a rational explanation for the seemingly apocalyptic weather, divine explanations sufficed, not only among the Smith family, but with thousands of families fleeing what they were unable to understand, in search of an explanation and deliverance.

1. During the global cooling, the Arctic experienced warming and ice melt

As nearly all of the Northern Hemisphere in the climes occupied by humans felt decreased temperatures and abnormal rain patterns, the Arctic, including the ice cap, experienced a sharp increase in temperature which led to a melting of the ice at the top of the world. The receding ice cap allowed explorers, especially those from the United States and Great Britain, to travel deeper than ever before into the polar region, using waterways which until then had been unwelcoming sheets of ice. Since the days of Henry Hudson and the earliest English exploration of North America, the quest for the fabled Northwest Passage had occupied the minds of explorers and adventurers, and the opportunity presented by changing weather conditions was too good to pass up. 1818 was the first year in a new series of English led Polar Expeditions which continued for most of the 19th century.

Among them was an expedition led by Englishman John Ross which included a counter-clockwise navigation around Baffin Bay, which had the salutary effect of opening the waters for the exploitation of whaling ships. Though the Northwest Passage eluded him, as it did so many others over history, the boon to the whaling industry was immediate, and whalers from Great Britain and the United States were soon delivering the fine oil for illumination to ports around the world. By 1820 the effects of the Year with no Summer were relegated to history, a part of family lore in which elders described to children the weather events of the past as far more consequential than those of the current day. Unknown to them, the real effects continued for decades, and in some ways continue to this day.


No Summer, No Vacation, No Fun, No Kidding –

WIF Into History

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #189

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #189

…there are reports of a peeping probing periscope, piercing pulsing pre-European purity, possibly prompting premature perspiration…

Alliteration

Plans are made for a June crossing of the Atlantic. After the sinking of the Lusitania, the war seemed to gasp for air, wondering if they had awakened the sleeping giant. This was their opportunity for a safe crossing aboard the ship S.S. Oscar II, one of the few ships crazy enough to crisscross these iron infested waters; destination: Brest, France.

They dare not test the German blockade of the British Isles, even though the Oscar is a neutral ship, supposedly exempt from submerged attack. From Brest, they will take a speedier launch to Bologna, an excellent base of operation for covering France and Britain, the English Channel at it’s narrowest.

As they prepare to board the Oscar, along with five members of their staff and a disturbing amount of large military looking crates and such, there is that unique sense of excitement which accompanies the heat of pursuit of a story and the truth. True is their love for the story and each other and even though they meet late in life, are evenly yoked and like-minded. To spend as much time together as they have, working arm in arm isa true gift from God. Common values and goals are a formula for a marriage made in Alliteration Alert-001heaven.

But there is quite a distance between heaven and the deep blue sea. On more than one occasion, there are reports of a peeping probing periscope, piercing pulsing pre-European purity, possibly prompting premature perspiration. The ship’s crew has delivered their vessel safely, nearly non-stop, since the official beginnings of hostilities, perhaps lulling U-Boat captains into a false sense of familiarity; an old floating friend as seen through a five inch lens.

Or maybe the ship, of Swedish registry, has gone undetected by a stroke of pure dumb luck. It does fly the Swedish flag, a banner of the highest neutrality and stays out of the Channel at all costs. Hopefully the Germans do not find out Brest’s importance in unloading supplies for the Allied effort.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #189


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #188

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #188

…It will be our last great adventure, and then we’ll hand the lead reporting over to the young studs and fillies…

7 may 1915

“My God, Harv, the Germans have sunk the Lusitania!” The journalists at P-E J have been watching the goings on in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean ever since Germany declared war on Russia in August of 1914, the first sign that a great war was beginning. France and Britain are joined and join in protecting borders that have been in place for most of the millennium. It will not be long before observers of the near global conflict need a scorecard, much like the ones used to keep track of a baseball game, to understand who has declared war on whom and who is on who’s side.

      “We have heard the rumors, Judith that “she” may have been carrying relief supplies to Britain, munitions and such. There is no reason to think that the Germans were going to ignore her.” Harv has been sitting on the fence concerning this war, teetering from dove to hawk and back, depending on the level of atrocity and loss of life.

“I think we should get to Europe, before oceangoing is banned altogether. If it truly is the “Great War”, as some are calling it, there is void to be filled. No one is seriously covering it. Sure, there are a few reporters over there, feeding the wire services with sketchy information, but there is not a single magazine with staff in place.

“What would you say to one last hoorah?” She stares back at him like he is crazy. “It will be our last great adventure, and then we’ll hand the lead reporting over to the young studs and fillies.”

   “You said that after we trailed Poncho Villa over three states, two territories and half of Mexico.” Judith reminds him of the possible danger they had narrowly escaped, several times.

      “Yes, but,” not a great comeback, “look at what Life Magazine is doing.”

  “They are wet behind the ears!”

          “That’s just it. They are going after the soft stuff. You won’t see their senior editors anywhere near a war zone and their reporters are too scared to volunteer.” His assessment is mostly true. They will stand back, for the time being, but should the United States be drawn into battle, they will find a way to muster up war correspondents.

          “Are you sure you want to do this, Harv, we are no spring chickens, you know,” Judith reasons.

          “That’s right: I am the savvy rooster and you are the wise old hen, queen of the henhouse, top-row laying…”

          “Stop, while you’re ahead! I get the message. Just remember, if we don’t die trying, I may kill you anyway. Blockades, U-Boats, dirigibles, poison gas… I don’t think I’ll get the chance.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #188


page 176

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #161

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #161

…John Ferrell has already assessed his estate and has negotiated the storm/tangle to check on his extended family…

tornado-ii-torrie-smiley

Tornado II by Torrie Smiley

  A branch is considered a stick and many of them are scattered across a quarter mile wide, five mile long path that began to the southwest, in the vast expanses of the Apalachicola forest. It had to be a twister at least that is the consensus of those left in its turbulent wake that marched steadily northeastward to rural Tallahassee, in the early morning hours of a warm early spring night, including a brush with San Luis Lake, which is usually spared any of the real weather. A direct hit surely would have razed the only two man-made compounds on the quaint body of water.

San Luis Lake-001      Now, in the post-dawn calm, with dew points equal to the 65 degree temperatures, everyone in the Endlichoffer household is wielding big sticks; cypress and jack pine strewn on the huge garden whose ground is sustaining seedlings of carrots, beets, potato and squash.

The garden is a family project, a source shared responsibility and pride. The 2000 square foot plot is ever in need of weeding, fertilizing, protection from vegetarian rodents, or watering, though this morning has provided 2 months’ worth of moisture deep into the subsoil. That a bountiful harvest is a bi-yearly event is a miracle in itself, considering that the native soil was mostly sand, without a favorable pH.

As is usually the case, in times of potential disaster, John Ferrell has already assessed his estate and has negotiated the storm/tangle to check on his extended family. Laura Bell and Maggie Lou have not gone away and no matter how convenient it would have been if they did, Ziggy and Frieda would rather give up breathing than part ways with their chalet.

 John has witnessed an evolution, from desperate refuge, in the days of Princess Olla’s pregnancy, to absolute integration into the lives of the dearest old Germans you could ever find. That is why he makes the trek down a well-worn path on a daily basis, under the auspices of a morning constitutional, when it is breakfast he shares… Martha knows.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Well worn path

The Well Worn Path

Episode #161


page 150

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #157

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #157

…Harv Pearson is the nearer to the telegraphic news ticker, so he picks up the end of the two foot and adding paper ribbon, reading his way back to the busy machine…

Tickertape machine

Chapter Nine

SHIFTING SANDS

“What is coming through the wire?” asks Judith Eastman. “It looks unusually long.”

She is speaking to Harv Pearson, in a rare moment when they are in their Rochester office simultaneously. One or the other or both are on the road most of the time.

“Might be a test run. It’s a bit early for news and there hasn’t been anything worthwhile for weeks,” certainly not of the human interest variety, the kind that makes good pictures and good press.

They are at the mercy of the news and news makers. Beginning with their first issue of the Pearson-Eastman Journal, the blockbuster interview and pictorial of Teddy Roosevelt in the American West, they had set the standard for finding great stories, combining the two mediums into a must read for millions of readers, i.e. subscribers.

Harv is the nearer to the telegraphic news ticker, so he picks up the end of the two foot and adding paper ribbon, reading his way back to the busy machine. He keeps adjusting his reading spectacles like they must be distorting the words.

“Does the cat have your tongue?” asks Judith playfully; curious as to why his mouth is hanging open without so much as a peep.

“We’re headed for California,” he says simply.

“Another gold rush?”

“Only if the U.S. Mint isn’t earthquake proof.”

“You don’t say.”

“Read for yourself,” he hands her the start of a frightening account. “It’s on fire, Judith, my God, it’s only after 5 o’clock in the morning there. Most people were sleeping when it hit, I would think that casualties are high.”

“We wouldn’t get there for three days.” She recounts the train ride back from Yosemite, in the Journal’s inaugural days.

“There is nothing else going on.” He laments the fluffy content of their magazine of late, though no one in their right mind would wish disaster on anyone for the sake of news. “If I know Jackson (his editor at the Quincy Reporter) we’ll be lucky if we beat him there.”

“You mean your newspaper has room in the budget for that?”

 “He watched me chase stories for years, not standard procedure for a small town rag, but I own it. He does not take that into account. If I told him he couldn’t, I would lose my Quincy Reporter-001credibility. The Reporter has the reputation of getting a big story first hand.”

“So, why don’t you sell him the Reporter?” This is not the first time she has suggested that move, for mostly selfish reasons that include taking away the one threat to his continued and permanent presence in her life. She has passed that point where she has enough emotional fuel for a return trip to her once lonely world. If only he would take that final step concerning their relationship; a proposal of betrothal instead of status quo-sal. “I mean, he has been running it without much help from you for five years now, something he pointed out when you were too busy to buy those new printing presses. The poor guy is working himself to death while you are doing a scant imitation of William Randolph Hearst.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #157


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